ANDY O'Sullivan gave up cross country running for his school back in 1967 - but he made a comeback in 1982 competing in a fun run organised by his local paper in Rochdale.

It might have ended there, but for a chance conversation shortly afterwards in his local pub, the Rifleman's, when some of his friends somewhat disparagingly suggested that if he could run then so could they.

He was given the job of organising a suitable event for them, and his first five-mile event attracted 177 entries.

Now, a quarter of a century later, O'Sullivan has organised over 300 races, helped to raise countless thousands for good causes, has been awarded the British Empire Medal and the MBE, and has even carried the Olympic Torch.

Above all, he has made hundreds of new friends in the process.

His anniversary party took the only form possible, a five-mile race at Littleborough which raised £900 for the Children of Chernobyl.

While his first venture was very much a fun run, soon O'Sullivan was attracting the sport's top stars for races around Rochdale.

The Joe Salt Anti Drugs Races from 1986-1990 attracted the likes of Dave Lewis, Steve Tunstall and Diane Modahl.

In one race, Lewis, Rossendale Harriers' best ever athlete, set an astonishing record of 23:50 for the 5.25 miles around Rochdale town centre.

Most of his races attract fields of around 100, but four years ago, around 400 runners descended on Littleborough to celebrate Ron Hill's 65th Birthday.

O'Sullivan has been organising a birthday race for the Accrington-born legend since he turned 58, and Hill once ran with a broken sternum in order to keep his record of training every day intact.

This year Hill will be 69, and you can celebrate with him at Littleborough on Thursday September 27.

Two years ago, a race helped to raise £10,000 for Christies Hospital in an event inspired by cancer victim Pauline Lucketti, mother of then Preston North End captain Chris, and earlier this year, a similar amount was raised in memory of Joe Geeling, a young cystic fibrosis sufferer who was murdered.

O'Sullivan lists these and his association with the Clayton Harriers Everest Challenge Team as some of his proudest moments.

For the anniversary race, Mick Hawkins, a former Commonwealth Games athlete, was tempted out of retirement, but it was Paul Green from Sale Harriers who won the approximate five miler in 27:07.

The course, starting and finishing in Littleborough, and passing through Whittaker and Rakewood, is hilly but on roads or good paths, and Rossendale's 16-year old Emma Flanagan demonstrated her promise finishing first woman in 34:54.

Simon Bailey of Accrington was the top local in sixth and won the over 45 class in 31:42, and there were class wins for Rossendale's Grant Cunliffe and Pete Jepson, Jennifer Adams from Accrington, and Derek Clutterbuck of Todmorden.

l O'Sullivan's next promotion tomorrow is the Graham Wright Cowm Reservoir Multi-Terrain Race in honour of the Rossendale Harrier founder member.

The start and finish of the 4.2 miler along roads, bridle paths and around the reservoir is Cowm Park Way South, Whitworth where competitors should park. Registration is at the Red Lion, a five-minute jog away.

The race starts at 7.00pm. At 6.55pm, there will be a fun run of 3,200 metres (2 miles). This distance has been reduced so that juniors as young as 10 can take part.